If you are new to photography and have just picked up that full-featured new “toy” which you have always wanted, you will come to the realization that the new camera also comes with a number of new jargon. A digital camera is a sophisticated piece of equipment. Different from its analog cousins, there is much more that is packed into it.
This may seem daunting at first but taking a little time in the beginning to get acquainted with these jargon would save you a lot of hassle of having to flip through the entire camera manual when you are suppose to be enjoying your new found hobby.
This article should give you a little head-start in getting to know some of the basic features which you would come across. With practice, you should be able to recall these useful features at your fingertips.
WHAT’S ON YOUR CAMERA
Most of the features of a digital camera are similar to the ones on a film camera. Several items which you should be familiar with are the shutter release button, an on-board flash (with a release button), the viewfinder, the lens and a zoom-in and zoom-out control. Your camera may have unique names for some of the features shared by cameras of other brands. Let’s look at some of the more common features:
Macro : This feature lets your camera focus on items at close range. How close you can focus depends on your camera’s lens construction. Check your camera’s manual on how close you need to be, to use this feature.
ISO : The speed of a film is expressed in an ISO (International Standards Organization) number. On a digital camera, you can change the ISO setting. That means, the larger the number, the faster the speed in which you camera can capture the shot. This is good, but you will be trading the quality of your shot as a faster ISO setting also means grainier shots. So, you should consider if it is worth the trade-off.
WB : You may find at times you need to take photographs under different lighting. Here is where White Balancing (WB) comes in. Tungsten lighting or your common light bulb will give you a warm color cast and fluorescent lighting can give you a greenish color cast. With WB, you can neutralize these color cast by selecting from the setting options, to give you true and natural colors. You could set this feature on Auto and let you camera worry about the proper settings.
Image Quality: Your digital pictures can be saved in a variety of formats, eg. JPEG, TIFF or RAW. These formats determine the quality of the picture which your shots are saved in, with RAW (uncompressed) being the best. TIFF is also another high quality uncompressed picture format. JPEG is the most common format used as it is actually a compressed version of your shot. This means you can save more shots in a memory card with this format. Picture compression, degrades the quality of your picture slightly but is acceptable for most shots which are sent for printing afterward. Most digital camera gives you several JPG options. A higher JPG compression (lower quality) allows you to save more shots on the same memory card. In the end, the format you use is determined by what you use the shots for.
Image Size: The maximum image size on digital cameras depends on the number of pixels on the CCD or CMOS of your camera. The default setting on your camera would be the largest image size. You can reduce the size of your shots for different purpose or just to save memory space on your memory card.
LCD Screen: This is probably the most useful feature on any digital camera. A colour LCD screen allows you to review your shots after you have taken your picture. On a non-digital SLR camera, you can use it as a digital viewfinder to compose your subjects before taking the final shot. The screen also displays information about your camera setting. (Some advanced cameras have another monochrome LCD display which does this.)
Playback Button: Pressing on this button lets you review your shots which you can toggle with a Forward/Backward control. With playback, you can delete or zoom in and out of your shot to check on clarity. This feature is one of the main reasons why most film camera users have converted to using digital cameras.
INSIDE YOUR CAMERA
CCD/CMOS Chip: The inside of a digital camera is packed with a host of electrical parts. At the heart of it all is the CCD or CMOS. This is a light sensitive chip which captures your shot and converts it into digital information which is then stored on your memory card. The quality of your picture is also affected by how good the chip is. Most new cameras are now fitted with better CCD/CMOS with improvements over past versions.
Camera Lens: Your camera lens is the “eyes” of the camera. Apart of digital SLR camera which has interchangeable lenses, most digital have built-in zoom lenses. You may work the zoom with a toggle button or by rotating the lens. Optical zoom refers to the physical range of your lens. Digital zoom refers to the digital resizing used by your camera to simulate zoom. If you do post-editing on your pictures, you may not require the latter method.
Memory Cards: Memory cards are storage devices for your digital camera. These comes in sizes of 32MB , 64MB , 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1GB and the numbers are still rising! Different manufacturers have come up with a number of formats like CompactFlash (CF), SmartMedia (SM), Memory Stick (MS), MultiMediaCard (MMC) Secure Digital (SD) and xD-Picture Card (xD). This is due to production cost and development of storage speed. It may be worth considering the price of memory cards when you purchase your digital camera.
Batteries: Nowadays, digital camera comes with rechargeable batteries. Aside from some brands which use common AA batteries, some manufacturers choose to develop high capacity batteries of their own. If you tend to leave your LCD on for most of your shots, this will drain the power of your camera more quickly. Having an additional battery is handy and saves on many frustrating moments when you are on that once-in-a-lifetime shot.
Aside from the above, there are many other optional and advanced features which your camera may have. With this basic information, you can go on to discover all your photographic creativity. Over the next few articles, I will be teaching you basic and advance photography techniques. Some of these advanced features will come into play and frequent practice will ensure that you get even more acquainted with your camera. After all, you bought your camera for a purpose, why not explore beyond this and not limit yourself to how far you could go.